Lately I’ve been hearing very clearly that I have to stop running full speed ahead and start striding using strategic and calculated steps. Far too many times we think because we’re busy that means we’re doing something good…but how much of that busyness is energy spent productively? Are you getting the desired results? Are you reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself? Are the things you’re involving yourself in aligned with your purposes? If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then I’d like to submit for your consideration that you’re busy and not as productive as you could be.

            Take some time to refocus and slow down a bit in order to get clear about the areas in your life where you should step back and the areas where you should step up. In an ever moving society, learning to slow down is probably one of the hardest concepts to accept. Trust me, I’m having the same struggle accepting it. However, the more I learn to slow down the better my productivity begins to get and my focus gets clearer each time. So how do we learn to slow down? Let’s figure this one out together!

1.     Learn to say “no”

Far too often we’re guilted into saying yes to things we don’t have the time, interest, or energy to do. The problem with that is that when something we do have the interest in doing comes up, we have to say “no” to that. Saying “no” to some things allows you the freedom to say “yes” to other things and it also gives more weight to your “yes”. For example, if I know that you’re always going to say “yes”…I expect you to do so every time; but if you sometimes say “no”, I will value your “yes” much more because I know it’s something you truly want to do.

Saying “no” benefits your time and energy when you learn to respect the necessity of using the word on a consistent basis. Even if nothing better is an option available…saying “no” allows you to have more time for yourself. It’s extremely difficult to find clarity amongst a constant sense of chaos…when is your mind quiet enough to hear the answer? Sometimes you have to say “no” just to have the time necessary to hear yourself think!

2.     Get strategic about your time

If we’re going to be successful…step one is getting organized and being specific on how you spend your time. We as a society spend entirely too much time on tasks we can barely recall the next day, let alone a week later. We end up wasting time on minute tasks have nothing to do with our purpose or goals and begin to use excuses like “I don’t have time”. I am a firm believer that “time” should never be used a valid excuse when explaining why something you agreed to didn’t get done. I have recognized that with the 168 hours in any given week, I can get done anything I need to with the right priorities and proper level of balance.

Getting organized is a trait so many people overlook and many brush it off as “Oh I’m just not organized…” as if it’s not something that can be learned. Really it just takes a commitment to improving in this area and finding what works for you as far as organizational skills. Sometimes I wish I knew how to teach organization, because it’s such an important part of success…and maybe one day I’ll sit down to figure that out. But really and truly it’s a personal skill you have to be committed to cultivating. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, but when you’ve convinced yourself you don’t have time for something…you’ll naturally begin to prove yourself right.

3.     Work smarter…not harder

Working smarter requires organization for sure, but it also requires ensuring a consistent focus on productivity. Are you doing more than necessary? Are you worried about things that have nothing to do with you? Are you micromanaging when you should be delegating? One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my years of management…train your people to do more and empower them to do so. Your days go much smoother when you have a strong team there to support you along the way!

Even if you’re not in a management role, you can still work smarter. Use the tools you do have available to you and stop working so hard to recreate the wheel. When all else fails…recognize there’s an app for just about everything! We live in a time where we’re absolutely blessed with the access our technology provides us, so much to the point that we often take it for granted. You can literally have the answer to anything just by typing a few letters into Google on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Create a system, find a routine, and get in a rhythm…whatever it takes to be consistently productive. In order to fully understand what’s going to work for you, you’re going to have to take the time to understand your work styles. You have to be willing to slow down enough so you can move forward strategically. Every day I go to work I make a genuine effort to work as strategically and productively as possible…so I can go home on time! The smarter I work, the less stressful those days begin to feel because it’s exerting less emotional energy to get through the day.

4.     Have consistent alone time

When was the last time you had some alone time? When was the last time you’ve got quiet without any distractions? Whenever I ask this question, especially in a room full of women, the majority of the answers is no or not as often as they should. Even if it’s 5 mins a day or 1 hour a week…whatever it is to begin with please do so! One of my favorite self-care routines is having a professional massage every 3-4 weeks, most importantly because it’s a full hour with complete isolation from the rest of the world!

For me, alone time includes bible study and devotion, time to read, journaling, my gratitude journal, my phone being on “do not disturb”, having a weekly sabbath in which I do absolutely no work, my massages, giving myself the freedom to take naps, and whatever else I feel is necessary. With the many things I have on my plate, it’s easy to feel rushed and consistently on the run. It’s in those moments of quiet time that I hear, think, recall, or recognize the very things I need to in order to figure things out.

5.      Recognize…less is more

Are you so busy doing everything under the sun that you’re not being a involved as you could be? Are you a jack of all trades and a master of none? I’m literally speaking to myself when I say this as well…but if you’re focused on less would you have more of an impact? If you had more time to focus on the little, could you do more? If you had $1,000 and gave it out to 1,000 people…it would make less of an impact than if you gave that same $1,000 to 10 people. The same is true with your time and energy.